What is the relationship between action and

language ?


Visually-guided action not only facilitates object recognition and serves to connect brain regions important in understanding objects, it also helps children learn words. 

1) In this program of research we first determined that like adults, 5-year old children also had brain regions that responded to verbs that reflect effector (arm or leg) specific verbs (e.g. jump and reach).

James, K.H. & Mauoene, J. (2010). Auditory verb perception recruits motor systems in the developing brain: an fMRI investigation. Developmental Science, 12(6), F26-F34. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00919.x

2) We then showed that activating these regions was experience dependent: only children that learned verbs through self-generated actions (as opposed to watching others perform the same action) showed this adult-like brain activation.

James, K.H., & Swain, S.N. (2011). Only self-generated actions create sensori-motor systems in the developing brain. Developmental Science 14 (4), 673-687.  doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.01011.x


James, K.H. & Bose, P. (2011). Self-generated actions during learning objects and sounds create sensori-motor systems in the developing brain. Cognition, Brain & Behavior, 15(4), 485-503.

3) We are now investigating a large corpus of words that are rated as highly active or highly abstract to further understand how brain regions become connected as a result of experience.

Munoz-Rubke, F., Kafadar, K., & James, K. H. (2015). Action is the key to observe the continuum among concrete and abstract words. Poster presented at the 2015 Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Cognition & Action Neuroimaging Lab | 1101 E. 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405 | (812)856-7237 | canlab1@indiana.edu